Roman Chamomile: Plant Characteristics & Health Properties

Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) is native to Northern Ireland and northwestern Europe where it blankets the landscape with its gray-green foliage. Plants can reach a height of 12 inches with branched, fern-like foliage that produces clusters of delicate daisy-like blooms, but they typically grow to heights of three to four inches forming a dense ground cover. Roman chamomile is similar in appearance to German chamomile (Matricaria recutita), but grows closer to the ground. Blooms emit an apple-like fragrance.

Roman Chamomile History

Roman chamomile has a long history as an herb prized for its aromatic and healing properties. It was revered by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans for both health and cosmetic reasons.

  • Romans: The ancient Romans used chamomile in baths, planted it between stones in pathways, used it in incense and even used it to flavor drinks.
  • Egyptians:The Egyptians used crushed chamomile flowers on the skin and dedicated the chamomile plant to their sun god, Re.
  • Greeks: The Greeks used chamomile to treat fevers and female problems. It is thought that chamomile earned its name from the Greeks who called it Kamaimelon. The name comes from two Greek words, kamai meaning ground, and melon meaning apple.
  • Medieval Times: During medieval times the leaves and flowers of the chamomile plant were strewn on floors and tables to mask unpleasant odors or to add fragrance to gatherings.

Medicinal Properties of Roman Chamomile

Chamomile has been used medicinally as an herbal remedy for a wide variety of health conditions. Research suggests that many of the practices have a scientific basis. According to a 2011 research paper published in the US National Library of Medicine, chamomile contains 28 terpenoids and 36 flavonoids. These organic compounds are thought to be responsible for chamomile’s healing properties.

  • Skin Conditions – Chamomile is thought to be effective in healing a variety of skin disorders, typically as a topical application of cream or gel. It is used to treat eczema and to reduce inflammation from cuts, burns, wounds, diaper rash, frostbite and other skin abrasions. It is also used to treat hemorrhoids and gum diseases, such as gingivitis.
  • Digestive Problems – Chamomile is thought to ease gas, bloating, indigestion, nausea, loss of appetite and vomiting.
  • Inflammation – Chamomile can be added to a steam bath and the vapors inhaled to soothe sore throats, relieve hay fever symptoms, ease pain from ear inflammation and treat sinus infections.
  • Boost Immune System – Compounds in chamomile have been shown to boost the immune system and may even help ward off the common cold.
  • Female Problems – Chamomile has long been used to prevent menstrual cramps and to prevent irregular periods, but should not be used in pregnant women as it may increase the incidence of miscarriage.
  • Anxiety and Stress – Drinking chamomile tea, or soaking in a bath with chamomile, helps reduce stress  and lessen anxiety.

Roman chamomile is also used as an essential oil for aromatherapy, in cosmetics and in hair care products. Roman chamomile tea can be used as a rinse to lighten or brighten blonde hair. It can also be used to lighten and smooth skin tone and to reduce the appearance of dark circles under the eyes. Whether you choose to relax with a soothing cup of tea at the end of a long day, or prefer to steep in a hot bath, chamomile can enhance the experience with its delicate flavor and fragrance.